Posts in Category: Videopoems

Todesfuge by Paul Celan

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Poem by Paul Celan

English translations: Michael Hamburger; John Felstiner; Jerome Rothenberg

Video by Philipp Fröndt, Max Straßer and Martin Race

This perhaps overly literal interpretation of the poem is the only one on YouTube to employ moving images. The slideshows, however, use a recording by Celan himself. Here’s the one I found the most effective:

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To put Celan’s reading in context, Gail Holst-Warhaft writes,

The Todesfuge has acquired a unique status among poems about the death camps. To many of its readers, it seemed to contradict Adorno’s famous dictum about the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz. Of all Celan’s poems, the Todesfuge has been the most discussed, anthologized, and translated. Celan’s own reading of the poem, preserved on record, emphasized its relentless rhythm, an effect achieved by repetition, alliteration, and a dance-like beat that reinforces the grotesque musical imagery of a poem originally published in Romanian and called “Tango of Death.” The title recalls the Jewish musicians forced to perform by the S.S. At the Janowska camp near Lvov (not far from Celan’s birthplace in Czernowitz) Jewish musicians were ordered to play a “Death Tango” during marches, grave-digging, tortures, and executions. Before liquidating the camp, the S.S. shot all the musicians. At Auschwitz, the term “Death Tango” was used for whatever music was played when groups of prisoners were executed. Without the lilt of this macabre dance music, the poem loses much of its effect.

Inevitably, then, the poem attracted the attention of composers. Here’s a video of a live performance of Elmir Mirzoev’s setting:

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The Other Woman by Lizzie Whyman

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Poem by Lizzie Whyman

Film by Alex Kinsey

Another video interpretation of the poem, an animation by Charlotte Johnson, is also worth watching, though unfortunately embedding has been disabled. Watch it here.

Both videos were commissioned by New Writing North.

Spacebar by Heather McHugh

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Poem and reading by Heather McHugh

Animation by Braulio Garcia for the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Everywhere series

Burger Man by Gaia Holmes

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Poem by Gaia Holmes

Film by Sharon Keighley, with narration by Lela Keighley

Thanks to Michelle at Peony Moon for bringing the work of this fine English poet to my attention.

Sonnet of Addressing Oscar Wilde by Anne Carson

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Poem by Anne Carson, from Possessive Used as Drink (Me), a lecture on pronouns in the form of 15 sonnets

Video by Sadie Wilcox

See “Recipe” for more information on the production.

Paris at Night by Jacques Prévert

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Poem by Jacques Prévert

Video by vandicla

Here for reference purposes are the text and an English translation as copied from an anonymous webpage, which notes that the title of the original is in English:

Paris at Night

Trois allumettes une à une allumées dans la nuit
La première pour voir ton visage tout entier
La seconde pour voir tes yeux
La dernière pour voir ta bouche
Et l’obscurité tout entiére pour me rappeler tout cela
En te serrant dans mes bras.
Three matches one by one struck in the night
The first to see the whole of your face
The second to see your eyes
The last to see your mouth
And the complete and utter darkness to remember them all
While holding you in my arms.

 

Though in other video poems I might object to a less than fully audible reading, here, I like the way the poem is submerged — a low mutter appropriate to the darkness from which flame, face, and song struggle to emerge.

Incision by Jillian Weise

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Poem by Jillian Weise, from An Amputee’s Guide to Sex

Animation by John Roberts

From the publisher’s description:

The Amputee’s Guide to Sex is an authentic exploration of disability and sexuality. Tired of seeing “cripples” appear as asexual characters in all forms of media, Weise took on a subject close to home: her own disability. This does not mean that these poems “happened” to Weise in real life. While based on the experience of an above-the-knee amputee, the poems have a life of their own.